The Indiana Legislature has confirmed former state Republican chairman Eric Holcomb as the state's new lieutenant governor.
The state Senate voted 50-0 shortly after the House voted 91-3 Thursday morning to approve Gov. Mike Pence's pick of Holcomb. He is to be sworn into office Thursday afternoon to succeed Sue Ellspermann, who resignation was effective Wednesday.
Republican legislative leaders praised Holcomb's selection, citing his experience as a top aide to former Gov. Mitch Daniels. Senate Democratic leader Tim Lanane said he would go along with Pence's pick, but that he questioned the reasons given for the change.
Pence announced three weeks ago that Holcomb would be his new running mate, replacing Ellspermann. Pence faces a tough election in a rematch with Democratic candidate John Gregg, whom he narrowly defeated in 2012.
The incumbent hinted at the resignation in December when he suggested Ellspermann would be an "ideal" candidate to lead Ivy Tech Community College. Ellspermann said she resigned to pursue the position.
Pence and Ellspermann deny there is a rift between them, though differences between the two were highlighted in September when Ellspermann said she supported civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The party has been divided over the issue since the backlash against the religious freedom law that the Republican-led Legislature passed last year before watering it down under heavy criticism. Pence has said he wouldn't support legislation that "diminishes the religious freedom of Hoosiers or interferes with the constitutional rights of our citizens to live out their beliefs in worship, service or work."
Holcomb has openly said he backed the governor's stance. Holcomb previously served as chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Dan Coats and worked as campaign manager for former Gov. Mitch Daniels, experiences that could make him an effective attack dog for Pence during the upcoming election. He also brings wide rapport that would serve as a bridge for Pence to unite the business-oriented moderates and tea party-backed conservatives who have clashed over the LGBT debates.
The nomination by Pence took Holcomb from a nearly year-long U.S. Senate candidacy where Holcomb sought to replace Coats, who is retiring this year.
Lawmakers said they wanted to make the transition before the legislative session is over March 10. Otherwise, the Legislature would have to return for a special session to confirm Holcomb.